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Wisconsin spring practice No. 4 recap

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Welcome back to football, Badgers fans.

Freshman QB Graham Mertz (5) during Wisconsin’s spring practice on Tuesday.
Jake Kocorowski

MADISON—Inside the McClain Center on Tuesday morning, the Wisconsin Badgers once again took the field for their fourth of 15 spring practices.

Going half-pack (helmets and shoulder pads), the team practiced for over two hours with the normal special teams, individual and team work we have become accustomed to seeing from head coach Paul Chryst and his staff.

Without further ado, let’s get to the highlights from the morning session:

Quarterbacks

Since it seems to be on many fans’ mind in the first practice open to the media, rising junior Jack Coan worked with what can be described as the first-team offense on Tuesday. The third year quarterback looked mostly good. That included leading the offense down the field in what looked like the first team period early on in practice, and he finished the drive with a touchdown pass to senior wide receiver A.J. Taylor. He also found Taylor for a touchdown in what looked like red zone 7-on-7 drills, and then threw a nice touchdown pass to tight end Jake Ferguson during what looked like team red zone work while eluding a blitzing Noah Burks.

For what it’s worth, Coan did throw two interceptions during practice—one to Caesar Williams during 7-on-7 work and one to safety Scott Nelson in a “tip drill” type pick in another 7-on-7 session. Again just one practice, and what I remember, he received a lot of reps on Tuesday.

Each quarterback made at least some solid throws. Redshirt sophomore Danny Vanden Boom completed a nice throw to Ferguson in a 7-on-7 session, and redshirt freshman Chase Wolf showed off his good arm in completing a pass to tight end Coy Wanner during team work.

True freshman Graham Mertz threw a nice, deep strike to Aron Cruickshank during 7-on-7 work for a would-be touchdown. He also had a couple other nice completions.

Long story short: There is a heck of a lot more to go so there are no conclusions to draw from this. The rotation appeared to switch up as to whom was after Coan during particular sessions. Should be interesting as to how this all plays out, and that will not be settled until fall camp.

Injuries

  • Cornerback Madison Cone and wide receiver Danny Davis (both right leg) were out of practice, along with cornerback Travian Blaylock, defensive end Garrett Rand, tight end Luke Benzschawel, offensive lineman Blake Smithback and wide receiver Cade Green.
  • Rand is still working back from injury and did not suit up, though it looked like he was doing some conditioning on the side. According to a UW official, Benzschawel, Blaylock, Smithback and Green are also still rehabbing from injury. Benzschawel appears to be out for a longer period of time. Green—like outside linebacker Christian Bell—actually suffered an injury during bowl prep practices. Smithback is working back from a leg injury that cost him his 2018 campaign.
  • Redshirt senior running back Bradrick Shaw suited up on Tuesday and performed some work with the quarterbacks in carrying the ball and catching some passes. It appeared he did not work in team drills.
  • Chryst noted in post-practice media availability that redshirt senior offensive lineman Jason Erdmann is limited, and that showed when the former walk-on did not participate in team drills today.

More observations

Again, this was the first day of spring practices open to the media, so once again there is a disclaimer here that there is a lot of spring ball (and fall camp) left for positioning and depth chart spots to be determined.

That being said, here is what B5Q saw on Tuesday:

  • First-team offensive line from left tackle to right tackle: David Moorman, Josh Seltzner, Kayden Lyles, Logan Bruss (with Erdmann not doing team work) and Tyler Beach
  • Reserve offensive line (again from LT to RT): Cormac Sampson, Andrew Lyons, Alex Fenton, Michael Furtney, Aaron Vopal
  • First-team outside linebackers were Zack Baun and Noah Burks, with Tyler Johnson and Izayah Green-May appearing to be next tandem in line. Also saw combinations of Spencer Lytle and Jaylan Franklin and Lytle and Griffin Grady together from what I observed.
  • For the inside linebackers, Chris Orr and Jack Sanborn took first-team reps, with Mike Maskalunas and true freshman Leo Chenal (sprinkled with a little Seth Currens) working as the perceived second-team ‘backers. For being a first year player, honestly, Chenal physically looks the part at a listed 6’2 and 239 pounds. He also intercepted a Danny Vanden Boom pass during 7-on-7 drills.
  • With the depth that the position has right now, Deron Harrell and Caesar Williams appeared to be the “first-team” for this session. Donte Burton and Alexander Smith worked in as a tandem, and I saw Faion Hicks work in the slot for a nickel look. Also saw Rachad Wildgoose and Cristian Volpentesta get some work in as well. Along with the previously mentioned interception, Williams also made a nice little hit on wide receiver Jack Dunn that broke up a pass during a team period.
  • First-team safeties appeared to be Eric Burrell and Scott Nelson, though it looked like at the end of the practice that Houston transfer Collin Wilder worked in with Burrell with the “starters” and Nelson and Reggie Pearson (now wearing No. 2), worked as duo as well. Wilder and Pearson looked like the second-team duo for most of practice. If all can stay healthy, I think that’s a solid two-deep patrolling the defensive backfield.
  • Those handling kickoff returns on Tuesday included Cruickshank, Hicks, Isaac Guerendo and A.J. Abbott.

Recruiting!

There were some recruits in town to take in the practice session. Those included Brookfield, Wis. (Central) 2020 running back Rashad Lampkin and 2021 defensive lineman Hayden Nelson.

There was a contingent of players from Muskegon (Mich.) High School as well, including 2020 athlete Cameron Martinez, 2020 wide receiver Quenten Reynolds and head coach Scott Fairfield. According to Rivals, Martinez, a three-star recruit, holds 19 offers from such programs as Michigan, Michigan State, Nebraska, Ohio State, Penn State and Wisconsin.

2019 wide receiver signee Cooper Nelson also was in attendance on Tuesday.

What’s next?

Wisconsin returns for a spring practice on Thursday morning, which is not open to the media. Reports will be allowed for the sixth session of the spring on Saturday, and B5Q will be there for more.